Socrates was a man of very distinct descriptions. He believed that we all would meet in a place in the afterlife. We would follow a guide down our chosen path according to the life we lived. Socrates didn’t have a fear of death or the path he would travel in the afterlife. He had a very detailed idea of how the terrain would be. He envisioned in exquisite detail of the beauty of the afterlife. He spoke of the path that people would take based on the type of person they were and the acts they committed. He is a man that doesn’t have a fear for death. He is a man that believes that there is life after death.
Socrates doesn’t fear death because of his philosophical life. He even states that “those that have duly purified themselves with philosophy live henceforth altogether without the body, in mansions fairer than these.” (Plato & Jowett, 1901, p. 444). His fear is tossed aside because he believes that a man that has positive and noble characteristics is ready die. He believes that his journey to the afterlife will be a short span and he will be reborn unto this world. Socrates that as long as a man has cast aside his pleasures as alien to the body and can cause pain is ready to go.
Socrates had a very vivid imagination as to his views on death and the afterlife. He envisioned guided paths that one must follow to a point of entry to the rivers. He described these rivers with the ebb and flow of life. The final spot is Tartarus, the deepest point in the Earth. His theory was that each person travelled one of these rivers until they were ready to return to Earth in another form. The philosophical will dwell in the purer Earth in mansions. The incurable will are destined to Tartarus and never to come out. Those that are neither well nor ill will suffer a penalty and then be absolved. There are some that have committed crimes that are not unpardonable and will spend a year in Tartarus and then have the opportunity to face their victims. They will then prevail or return to the depths of Tartarus. He believed the afterlife to be an area of the Earth that was only attainable after death.
I cannot say that I agree with him to the extent of his description, but I do believe that we exist in a state of immortality until such a time that we return to this Earth. I believe the worst criminal acts don’t get the chance to return but they are forgiven regardless if they face their victims or not. I do not believe that God takes pity on people. Jesus died for our sins. He was crucified dead and buried. Only he shall judge the quick and the dead. While we may float in a state of transition, I do not see it as a river ride from one side to the other.
Based on the ideas of Socrates and the travels one must endure before their return to this Earth, there are several questions that come to mind that I would ask. The first question is of the mentally ill, and those that have no knowledge of a crime being committed. Is it fair to condemn them to the depths of Tartarus? They feel they did no wrong. What about the ones that have committed unforgiveable crimes and yet they have been forgiven by their victims. Should they spend eternity in Tartarus? My final question is this, if Jesus died for our sins and all is forgiven then why the need for Tartarus?
Whether you fear death or not, whether you believe in the afterlife or not, Socrates describes death and the afterlife in a way that everybody can relate. The guided paths, the rivers flowing to and fro like the people in our lives that come and go, the depths of Tartarus, all of these were his idea of life after death. He was not afraid to die. Why should he. He was a man of philosophy and he would live in the best mansions. He did not have to travel the rivers or peril in the depths as he so described. Socrates knew death was a part of life and that it was going to come to an end. He knew it would not be long before he returned so why be afraid.